Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sen. Bernie Sanders has been scathing about the invitation issued by Congressional leaders to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address them. Sanders blasts Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and says he will boycott the appearance. The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague has requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his minister of defense, Yoav Gallant, for the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza. Sanders praised the ICC request. Netanyahu’s total war on Gaza has killed over 36,000 people, some 70% of them women and children.

Sanders is right to be outraged. But there is a long history of the US Congress asking war criminals, and criminals of other sorts, to address it. Not to mention the war crimes that Congress itself has committed, such a the illegal authorization it issued in 2002 to George W. Bush to invade Iraq, an invasion that killed hundreds of thousands and displaced 4 million people, and left the country a basket case to this day.

In 1959 Congress invited the king of Belgium, Baudouin, to address it. He had been the sovereign over the Congo in the 1950s. Under his rule thousands of mixed-race children were kidnapped by Belgian authorities and transported to Belgium for adoption. Belgian rule in Congo was brutal and heavy-handed. Baudouin later accepted Congolese independence in 1960, but was complicit (a year after he addressed Congress) in overthrowing and murdering its first post-Belgian leader, Patrice Lumumba. The US CIA helped.

In 1978 Congress was addressed by Anwar El Sadat and Menachem Begin. Begin was a war criminal and in some ways the inventor of modern Middle Eastern terrorism.. In the 1940s he commanded the Irgun Zvai Leumi terrorist group in British Mandate Palestine. He instigated the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946 to hit out at British Intelligence, which had an office in the hotel. The bombing killed dozens of innocent civilians. Begin’s Irgun was also responsible for the massacre of over a hundred innocent Palestinian villagers at Deir Yassin in 1948, an action which he justified and boasted about in his autobiography: “Our men were compelled to fight for every house; to overcome the enemy they used large numbers of hand grenades. And the civilians who had disregarded our warnings suffered inevitable casualties.” There is a long history of Israeli terrorists threatening to attack people and attempting to force them from their homes, and then blaming them for being massacred because they didn’t allow themselves to be expelled.

In 1989 Congress in its wisdom decided to be addressed by South Korean strongman Roh Tae-woo, who had engineered the 1979 coup in that country. In 1980 he had been complicit in ordering the crushing of pro-democracy protests in Gwangju. He went on to steal hundreds of million of dollars from campaign funds. Roh Tae-woo was sort of a South Korean Donald Trump and that he was so popular with Congress was maybe a sign that in 1989 the country was already heading in a bad direction.

In 2016 and again in 2023, Congress let the odious Narendra Modi of India soil its halls. Genocide Watch explains, “In 2002, anti-Muslim carnage engulfed the Indian state of Gujarat, killing at least 1,000 people. Most of the victims were Muslims. The Chief Minister of Gujarat was Narendra Modi, a lifelong member of the Hindu extremist RSS. He ordered police not to stop the massacres.” The BBC did a fine documentary on the massacre, which India banned.

Lots of other unsavory people have traipsed through the national legislature’s halls. I’m not sure any of them has killed as many innocents as Netanyahu, the Butcher of Gaza.